Showing posts with label Nobby Stiles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nobby Stiles. Show all posts

Return of Cristiano Ronaldo

Manchester United were nudged by Jorge Mendes, the expert agent of Cristiano Ronaldo when he opened direct talks with local rivals City about the next move after his most famous client decided to leave Juventus this summer. Sir Alex Ferguson praised Mendes in his autobiography as "the best agent I dealt with, without a doubt. He was responsible, looked after his players to an incredible extent and was very fair with clubs". Credit to the team at United who acted swiftly to secure the services of Ronaldo once again, undoubtedly the intervention of Ferguson perhaps a first since his retirement brought about this transfer coup considering the final fee in five installments of €3million a year!

Ever since Ronaldo scored 42 goals to help United to their European double of Champions' League and English Premier League in 2007-08 his stats has been explosive and consistent. At Real he averaged 50 goals per season and at Juventus 33. Ronaldo broke the men's record of most international goals by scoring his 111th goal for Portugal who defeated Ireland 2-1. In the recently concluded Euro 2020 delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic he was the lead scorer despite Portugal losing in the knock-out phase itself. For the first goal he scored against Germany, Ronaldo ran 90 meters in less than 14 seconds dispelling any doubts about his fitness even at the age of 36. Despite being two years older than Messi he rose to the challenge brilliantly almost matching his 472 goals with 450 of his own during the same time in La Liga. Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku will have stiff competition for sure.

Does Ronaldo make Manchester United title challengers? Despite lacking a central defensive midfielder of repute to control games, United will solve another major problem of not having a player to score 30 goals a season. This itself will catapult United to challenge for the title but it will not make them favourites like Manchester City, Liverpool or Chelsea. Ronaldo is not an affliction with United's past glory as critiqued by a few notable journalists. Considering the history of Sir Denis Law, United protected their interests now unlike in the 70's earning the unpopular Glazers an important point over the Edwards ownership for sure. Sir Alex Ferguson augmented his coaching staff by recalling legends under Sir Matt Busby in Nobby Stiles to help nurture academy graduates, and promoting Brian Kidd to be his assistant. That worked brilliantly for Fergie. Another incredulous critique was to draw parallels with the disastrous purchase of Alexis Sanchez that completely disrupted the dressing room under Jose Mourinho; here the player in question is an ex-legend and super fit with a coach eager to get the best out of him. Yes, the United wage bill has hit the roof with this one transfer but the benefits far outweigh any negatives.

Cristiano Ronaldo will himself be aiming for glory to give his glittering career a fitting end. He would want to aim for record of Francesco Gento with most UEFA Champions' League wins and put a daylight behind his present records. His Premier League tally is 84 goals now with 34 assists, his overall tally of 112 needs 43 more to enter top 10 scorer's of all time and 67 to match George Best's tally of 179, he missed Denis Viollet's tally of 32 league goals the most by a United player by just one goal in 2007-08 and in the same season his tally was 4 shy of Denis Law's all-time record of 46 goals in 1963-64 that won the Scotsman a Ballon d'Or a first ever for a United player. George Best scored 6 goals in a match against Northampton Town where as Ronaldo has scored five goals in a league match on two occasions. Wayne Rooney rightly argued that Ronaldo has the physique to play into his 40's like Ryan Giggs.

Ronaldo's home-coming promises to eclipse the return of George Best twice, first after retirement under Frank O'Farrell he scored 4 in 19 games and second time after suspension under Tommy Docherty he scored 2 in 12 games before finally quitting United. Ronaldo's age might be a handicap in terms of longevity when comparing to Mark Hughes' spectacular seven years second spell. Paul Scholes made an impactful return from retirement by winning the Premier League. Other returnees have mainly been youth players from Mark Bosnich, Les Sealey to Paul Pogba and Tom Heaton. How hard it is get one's wish to return, just ask Gordon Hill when Ron Atkinson wanted him back at United after excelling in mid-70's but fate conspired against it.

With Ronaldo, United can play two upfront and not just 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. Edinson Cavani scored 17 goals in all competition last season and would be an ideal strike partner. Rashford or Martial from the left, Fernandes or Pogba through the middle, and Sancho or Greenwood from the right offer plethora of opportunities to create goals for the Portuguese superstar. Pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will increase manifold to keep United in the hunt for the league till the very end and win the club its first trophy in five long years. There is no place to hide anymore!

Ode to the lost Babes

The dreadful year that was 2020 also took away eight of the best Busby babes. RIP

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

16 February: Harry Gregg
The courage and determination of Harry Gregg to get back into the burning plane in Munich and get many of his colleagues out of the wreckage, led the fightback of Manchester United from being completely destroyed. With Bill Foulkes played in the first match at Old Trafford after Munich against Sheffield Wednesday on 19th February. Brought from Doncaster Rovers for a record fee to be the final jigsaw of Matt Busby's great side that aimed to win the coveted European Cup. Against the odds United finished runners-up in 1958-59 season in which Gregg played a huge part to protect inexperienced defensive unit without skipper Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, Geoff Bent and Jackie Blanchflower. He missed the 1963 FA Cup final triumph with a shoulder injury and couldn't make enough appearances to win 1965 League winners medal, the only medal he won with United was the 1958 FA Cup runners-up medal. He returned to United as a goal-keeping coach under Dave Sexton in 1978. In 2012 Sir Alex Ferguson's side played in his testimonial match held in Belfast. Years of campaigning from fans of this humble giant for a knighthood yielded an MBE and later an OBE in 2019.

08 June: Tony Dune
Wrote a detailed piece of United's best defensive left back earlier in June.

17 July: Alex Dawson
Saw United beat his home town club Aberdeen in a friendly in 1950. Signed up as an amateur schoolboy and won two FA Youth Cups before breaking through to the first team where he scored in each of his first three games when first choice Tommy Taylor was injured. Mark Pearson or Alex Dawson were supposed to fly to play against Red Star Belgrade but an injury to captain Roger Byrne meant that fullback Geoff Bent went instead. Made to play first team football regularly much ahead for his age meant carrying load of expectations and responsibility that many times stifles the natural growth. Alex took it in his stride scoring a hat-trick against Fulham in the semi-final of the FA Cup replay at Highbury to send United through to the final, where United lost to Bolton 2-0. Got his form back after a brief lull to score hat-tricks against Chelsea and Manchester City in the derby, which was the first by a United player since Joe Spence in 1921 and later Andrei Kanchelsks did it in 1995. Despite scoring 15 goals in 1959-60 season and 16 goals in the next, Dawson was sold to Preston Northend by Sir Matt Busby who had acquired David Herd. 54 goals from 93 games return made many fans to believe he was unlucky to be sold and his United career cut short.

09 September: Reg Hunter
Welsh player Reg was in the third team when he was fast-tracked into the first team following the Munich air crash alongside Bobby Harrop and Reg Holland but didn't actually end up playing. Yet the courage showed was exemplary. Won FA Youth Cup with United and made one senior appearance vs Aston Villa in Dec 1958 before leaving United in 1960 after four seasons.

30 October: Nobby Stiles
Local lad from Collyhurst part of Manchester he won the World Cup with England and European Cup with Manchester United playing alongside Sir Bobby Charlton. Watched the 1948 FA Cup final on the shoulders of his dad which United famously won at Wembley. Adored Eddie Colman as a kid and came through the youth ranks despite his small stature. His excellent vision and tackling marked Eusebio out against Portugal and Benfica to win laurels for both club and country. Picked by Alf Ramsey to add steel to the England side with Bobby Moore, Alan Ball and Roger Hunt and stood by him despite public pressure after a rough game against France. Knee operation ended his career prematurely at only 27. Never had an official testimonial despite his heroics on the field. Played with veteran Bill Foulkes in the heart of defense to also win two league championships. Later was youth coach at United between 1989 and 1993 when Fergie Fledglings came through. Club statement read "An integral part of our first-ever European Cup-winning side, Nobby was a titan of the club’s history, cherished for his heart and personality on and off the pitch."

12 November: Albert Quixall
Matt Busby uncharacteristically spent big after Munich on players like Albert Quixall and Maurice Setters to ensure Manchester United did not go into oblivion like Torino who had also lost their entire team to a plane crash. Tasked with leading the charge of United to compete for trophies, Quixall suffered a nervous breakdown mainly due to his record fee and lost his England place too. He led the Sheffield Wednesday side when United played their first match after Munich and with his 5 England caps was regraded as the blond star on everyone's radar. Provided perfect passes for Sir Bobby Charlton to score and ended up scoring 56 crucial goals himself including a hattrick versus newly crowned champions Ipswich Town in 1961. Won the 1963 FA Cup by being United's leading goal scorer but was dropped alongside David Herd and Johnny Giles in the first league match of the next season after a heavy 0-4 defeat in the charity shield confirming the end of his United career.

22 November: Maurice Setters
Two of Manchester United's worst defeats tell the tale of start and end of Maurice Setters. 7-3 loss to Newcastle United in January 1960 made Matt Busby to stiffen the midfield and fill the void of Wilf McGuiness whose career ended due to injury, by signing Maurice Setters from West Bromwich Albion for a huge fee. Busby for a time felt the likes of Setters and Noble with tough tackling could help win matches against mid-table opposition. His hard tackles helped team to regain possession and win the 1963 FA Cup. The 0-5 loss to Sporting Lisbon in the second leg of European Cup Winners Cup in March, 1964 is the worst defeat suffered by United in Europe especially since they won the first leg comfortably 4-1. The three legged FA Cup tie against Sunderland and loss to West Ham in semi-finals was the main reason the squad appeared exhausted in Lisbon. Its the only result in the long stint of Matt Bubsy at United in which the Scot lost his cool and slammed his players. Setters' subsequent injury when he slipped on the marble floor of the Lisbon hotel made Busby pick Nobby Stiles instead and was soon transferred to Stoke after 159 appearances for United.

21 December: John Fitzpatrick
Shaggy-haired Scottish lad won the 1964 FA Youth Cup with the likes of David Sadler, George Best, John Aston Jr, Jimmy Rimmer and Bobby Noble. Became United's first ever substitute when he replaced fellow Aberdonian Denis Law in a match against Tottenham Hotspur in October 1965. Stood-in for Nobby Stiles initially and his versatility made him indispensable in the late 60's and early 70's. His best was against Polish champions Gornik Zabrze to keep the score 0-1 and progress 2-1 on aggregate to the semi-final of 1968 European Cup. One of only four players to avoid the cull of Tommy Docherty with Alex Stepney, Jimmy Rimmer and Bobby Charlton, spate of injuries made him retire at the age of 27 and dealt a huge blow to United's efforts to avoid relegation.

Solskjaer notches up 100 games as United manager

Time has flown either quickly as a result of two fine winning runs or exasperatingly when United have yearned for a win. Squad has undergone a definite transformation with most players wanting a move have been dispatched while the newer ones are regular's in captain Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Bruno Fernandes, Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek and Edinson Cavani. Most tellingly there is a general optimism about the future as academy graduates Mason Greenwood, Brandon Williams, Dean Henderson are integrated, and established ones rediscovering their form in David de Gea, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic, Fred and Scott McTominay. Depth is the new dimension this season that should allow Solskjaer to tweak his line-up and tactics to ensure a result no matter the opposition. 

His record so far in 99 games has been 55 won, 21 draws and 23 lost. He is close to overtaking Louis van Gaal's 103 matches in charge and near to Jose Mourinho's 144. Both those legendary manager's however won trophies in that time! Having achieved Champions' League qualification in his first full season in charge, the next aim will be to win a trophy before mounting a challenge to the English Premier League. Injuries, lack of squad depth nor disappointment over not getting Jadon Sancho can no longer be an excuse. Certainly United need wingers (signed two youth players Facundo Pellistri from Penerol and Amad Diallo from Atalanta) a specialist position for which they were known to have had the best over the years in George Best, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo. Array of options in midfield now overcomes that caveat by playing 4-3-3 with Rashford and Greenwood in wider positions or playing with three at the back by pushing wing-backs further up or utilizing Juan Mata, Daniel James. Coming from 0-1 down to win over Newcastle, Solskjaer said "our season starts now" after lack of pre-season having started with two home defeats. Scrutiny will increase with every points dropped as they are already playing catch-up.

United face Arsenal at home after thrashing last year's semi-finalists in RB Leipzig 5-0 including a hat-trick for Marcus Rashford who came on as a sub. Last person to achieve that feat was the current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who put four past Nottingham Forest in a 8-0 demolition job. Emergence of Axel Tuanzebe to cover for Harry Maguire away in Paris to keep Kylian Mbappe quiet, and Dean Henderson's assured performances in the League Cup games indicating that he's settled after spending season's away on loan have been the two best positives that adds to squad depth further. United lead their group with maximum 6 points and now play two back to back matches against the weakest team in Istanbul Basaksehir which should tee them up to finish as group leaders.

Arsenal under Mikel Arteta won the FA Cup last year beating United's conqueror's Chelsea and managed to keep hold of their star player in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Arsenal have not won at Old Trafford since 2006, while United are desperate for points to move up from 15th position having taken only one point from three home games, their worst run since 1972-73. Every United match now on there will be a discussion on who was left out, why and did that work out? Donny van de Beek's presence has impacted five of the nine goals United have scored this season, mostly in late second half. He got his first start against RB Leipzig and match was evenly placed till his substitution. Paul Pogba played on the left of midfield his natural position and had a good game. Goals however rolled in after Bruno Fernandes came on.

Alex Telles is out after contracting covid-19 without displaying any symptoms. As per reputed journalist Christian Falk, United are in talks with AC Milan midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu to sign him up for free after his current contract runs out in June, 2021 and is another number 10 rather than a winger. Rumours of links with a Turkish player before the squad flies to play in Istanbul is good to gain attention locally and positively highlights that the club are scouting for players for the next transfer window. Letting in five goals would have an adverse effect on Dayot Upamecano's immediate potential but clubs will look for his response in the next matches. Jadon Sancho scored midweek after a poor start to the new season at Dortmund after being linked with United all summer.

United are yet to dominate the match from the start and win convincingly. Tactically PSG away was great team effort but it's been the substitutes who have given United the wins in the final 20 minutes against both Newcastle and Leipzig. This is the next milestone. Only wins against Arsenal and Everton before the second international break will assuage fans after another poor start to the season. United need to be mindful of being complacent after that huge mid-week win. Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford who were on the bench midweek will return to the starting XI, meaning Donny van de Beek will go back to being a sub. As its a home match Greenwood may start in his second straight match while Cavani might need to wait a while longer to make his full debut. Anthony Martial will miss this match the last of his three match ban. Willian's return to Arsenal's starting XI will worry United.

de Gea(GK), Wan-Bissaka, Shaw, Lindelof, Maguire(C), Fred, McTominay, Pogba, Fernandes, Greenwood, Rashford

After Jack Charlton the elder brother of Sir Bobby Charlton, another World Cup winner in England and Manchester United's finest Nobby Stiles passed away. Being just 5"5' he played as centre-half in the 60's alongside Bill Foulkes to help Manchester United win two league championship and European Cup in 1968. He missed out the 1963 FA Cup final through injury. He man marked Eusebio to help both United and England overcome Benfica and Portugal in crucial stages of the great run. His joyful dance at the end of 1966 World Cup win and toothless grin is permanently etched in folklore.

'#Happy' made everyone succeed. Central to Busby & Ramsey's teams to knit together talents to win all major honours with #MUFC & '66 #WorldCup with #ENG. Perfect foil for @SirBobby,read the game well,a ball winner. Two ops ended his career at just 27. Youth coach. #RIPNobbyStiles

— Srinivas Rao (@srinivasjrao) October 30, 2020

Time running out for Gomes

Story of Angel Gomes is like a dream. Coming through the youth ranks and finally making his debut in May, 2017 to become the youngest player to play for the first team in 64 years since Duncan Edwards the greatest. Part of England squad that won the U17 FIFA World Cup held in India where team played all their games except one at the country's football capital Kolkata. Gomes started in only 2 games scoring a goal apiece against Chile and Iraq. He was brought on as a sub late in the final after a stunning comeback from 0-2 down was confirmed to finally beat Spain 5-2. Since then much has been heard about his colleagues from that group Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, Rhian Brewster, Callum Hudson-Odoi not Angel Gomes. Is this tweet from MUFC another attempt to urge Gomes to sign a new contract before his present one expires on 30, June?
Of all positions to emerge from and settle successfully in the first team midfield is the most challenging where the player is most dependent on others. This season forward Mason Greenwood, left-back Brandon Williams have broken through to first team and done admirably while being younger than Gomes. Competition in midfield is hotting up from James Garner and Dylan Levitt. Levitt was not part of the summer tour last season but his consistent good performances have earned a call from Wales senior squad managed by former United legend Ryan Giggs. Height should not be an issue though Gomes is even smaller than either Nobby Stiles or Paul Scholes who as per Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography had no chance of making it being dubbed "Too small."

In march Tahith Chong signed a new contract ending speculation about his future after his potential suitors Inter Milan suggested to loan him out next season. He has played in Cup matches since and registered two assists but did miss an easy opportunity to score against Astana in Europa league. In contrast Gomes has also played in Europa league but other appearances have dried up owing to stand-off over his contract while he was being touted all over Europe by his father who is also his agent.

Solskjaer denied Gomes an opportunity to be loaned last January after he took over as United were short of numbers in midfield but was involved in only two games. This year too in January he was denied the chance rightly as his contract negotiation had not concluded. Loan without contract could have only benefited Gomes not the club. Lack of progress under Mourinho after he gave Gomes the dream debut was a greater cause for slump in his progress.

Rebuild under Solskjaer is progressing well but was late to offer Ander Herrera a chance to stay. Same isn't the case for Gomes who has an offer from United for quite some time. In the first part of this season where United struggled with different players in midfield all options were evaluated starting from seniors to juniors in the squad owing to the pressure of gaining points in ultra competitive Premier League. Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira were ahead of Gomes that probably upset some fans but the proportion could have been varied to give Gomes slightly more game time. Consistent run of games given to Fred has resurrected his career and hope Gomes sees this positive influence of Solskjaer that has also turned around Luke Shaw and Nemanja Matic whose United future was in doubt. Arrival of Bruno Fernandes and return of Paul Pogba will mean he needs to deliver at any given opportunity which can only happen if hard work in training and right attitude is never compromised. Eventually when Pogba leaves United can have a home made replacement in Gomes.

Stats do not tell the complete picture though in the 6 senior appearances Gomes could not score nor produce an assist. He took the free-kick against Astana which was superbly saved by their keeper. With the reserve team he has 4 goals and 2 assists having missed many games this season as he was with the first team as standby but not part of match day squad limiting his appearances significantly. He has represented England at every level from U16 to U20. Overall for United youth teams in 66 games he has 29 goals and 17 assists which is very impressive and continuing this into the senior setup needs a bit of patience and planning else frustration creeps in.

Paul Pogba left Manchester United at the end of his contract influenced by his agent as outlined by Sir Alex Ferguson and later became clubs record transfer from Juventus a foreign club. Gomes likely destination is United's direct rivals in Chelsea who have been dominating the Youth Cups but under Lampard and Morris aim to promote youth where United's record of blooding a youth player is unbroken for more than 4,000 games stretching back to 1937. This stat alone should sway the decision of Gomes who has been at United since the age of six and if not Solskjaer's teammate who is also his godfather Nani ring to nudge him to continue his development at United. To have made United to wait till the very last moment would have also given them a clear message. Ravel Morrison's career shows talent alone is not enough and there is a long road ahead for Gomes.

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